The Woman at the Well as Ecclesiological Type: Fornication and Idol Worship as Hyperbole of Protestantism

In Part I, we looked at how the Old Testament North, which separated from God’s true Kingdom of Old, can be seen as a type of all Christian division, and not just heresy or just schism.  Now we will probe further type of division in the Woman at the Well in the New Testament.

Toward that end, we can ask, what if there were another image of New Covenant ecclesiology?  There is: the Samaritan woman at the well!  This makes sense firstly because the Samaritans were the epitome of the unorthodox to the Jews of Jesus’ time.  Too, the Samaritans were not only unorthodox but descendants of the original North. Hence, the Samaritans are in a perfect position as the Old Testament unorthodox to bear, within themselves, the totality of phases and types of NT unorthodoxy, or division.

Human Sexuality as Image of Holy Orders

Now, to begin, we note the woman, per the words of the Savior, has five husbands, and then a live-in fornicator.  This suggests a mystical tie between sexuality and Christian division. Indeed, this is precisely the case, as follows.

Firstly, we know that human sexuality between man and woman is an image of the spiritual spousal relationship between the God and His People, between the Creator and the creature. How? Well, the mystery is this: physically, the act of love between man and woman images the spiritual relationship between God, the Creator, and the creature.  More specifically, simply consider the blatant similarities:  man has a proceeding sexuality, and woman has a receptive sexuality.  Man holds the seed of life that is originally infused. Woman, effectively, receives it.  This is the precise nature of the seed of “truth and grace” in the spiritual life: God, the Creator, is the ultimate source of all truth and grace, not the creature. The creature, effectively, is in a receptive position with regard to truth and grace. We creatures do not determine the truth; God does. God is the truth! “I am the way, the truth, and the life!” Moreover, all grace is a finite created participation in the Divine life and love of the Trinity. It must come from God; it must be given by God. The creature does not create grace. The creature receives it.

Similarly, just as man overshadows woman from above [“The Holy Spirit shall come upon you, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow you.”] and enters her inner being, lovingly infusing the total gift of life, the seed of life, so God overshadows the creature, enters its inmost being, the soul, and lovingly infuses grace for the will and truth for the intellect.  The grace is conceived and brought forth in new life, a new life that proceeds from the creature to the outer world, meaning, the creature renewed at Mass with God’s Words and strength in the Eucharist goes forth to “love and serve the Lord”, to bring the life and truth it received to others through acts of charity and evangelization.

The Catholic Balance of Male and Female and Why only Men can be Priests

We now come to essential theology of the Incarnation and Holy Orders. We have just seen that God created male to female to image, at least in one layer, Creator to creature.  For this very reason, if God makes Himself flesh, He absolutely must take on the sex which images of the Creator.  Hence, the Son must become male.  This also indicates why the Sacred Scripture and Tradition effectively use male pronouns for God: Father, Son, Lord. This, incidentally, also vindicates the Church’s tradition that only men may be ordained. How?  Well, priests are in persona Christi. They mediate truth and grace of the Creator, as though they were the source, and therefore they must bear the image of the Creator in the sexual analogy, hence, the male. That is, priests and bishops are “spouses” of their respective Christian communities.  This gives us a gateway to view the “husbands” and “live-in lover” of the Samaritan woman in light of the sexual mystery of Holy Orders.

The First of Five Husbands, Peter

To move now into the essence of analyzing the woman’s “husbands,” we see that for the first thousand years of the Gospel, the woman, the Christians that would later divorce Christ, had one spouse, one earthly spouse, Peter, for, as every priest is a Christological Bridegroom to his parish, Peter's Spouse is the whole Church.

The Next Four Husbands: the Remnant Four Apostolic Sees of Schism

Then, in the Great Schism, the first epic rupture of Christian unity, the woman divorced Peter and was left with four “lesser husbands,” the other four Apostolic Sees, and no one could claim her exclusively. These are the other four great brothers of Peter, who had left Him.

Protestantism: the Religion of Pseudo-Husbands

Still later, if the North images all Christian division, then, in Protestantism, all Apostolic spousal relations were abandoned in favor “live-in” husbands. What do we mean?  We mean that no man is truly a spouse of a parish or of the Church, or of a diocese, and so forth, unless he has validly received Holy OrdersThe only true men of God, are deacons, priests, and bishops of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.

Protestantism, the most epic and catastrophic division, cut itself from the lifeblood of Apostolic Succession. Luther was merely a monk, and so could not ordain any priest. Ditto, Calvin was just priest, not a bishop. Admittedly, for a while, the bishops of Anglicanism retained Apostolic Succession and were merely in schism and not heresy. But eventually, their theology betrayed the Apostolic Gospel, and subsequent rites of Holy Orders were invalid and no longer efficacious. Hence, Apostolic Succession died out, so that, today, the English communities are heretics like Lutherans, Calvinists, and so forth.

Hence, when there are no Holy Orders, there are no true men of God, and consequently, no true formal spouses of a Christian community. Subsequently, though Protestant ministers and evangelists have the semblance of spiritual husbands, formally they are not.  Therefore, they indeed preach like a priest, they baptize and marry like a priest, they anoint sick people, they collect church funds, they spiritually direct congregants, they are "ordained" by "the laying on of hands", and so forth; but in the end, they are no different than a man who lives with a woman, works to provide for her, changes diapers, helps with the dishes, fixes things, does yard work, kisses her, hugs her, has sex with her, has children with her, but who has never taken her before a public place of worship before all friends and family and a spiritual representative from the community and said, before all, I am yours until death do us part; until the sun won't shine; in good times and in bad; for better or for worse, and so forth.

Yes, Protestant ministers are, despite all true sincerity, in the end, spiritually live-in "husbands", pseudo men of God. "You have spoken rightly. For you have had five husbands, and the man you are now with is not your husband."

This, then, can be the image of a mystery of Christian division: the North, as well as the Woman at the Well, who images the final phase of the North, can be the symbol of the process of denigrating division.  In the first wave, some form of formal spousal relationship is retained, schism, as in four husbands, or the first phase of worship in the North. Later, however, fornication sets in, as in the Woman's current situation with a mere pseudo-husband, and also the second phase of worship in the North, Baal and Jezebel, heresy.

The Seven Letters Revisited

Recall that I saw the seven letters of Apocalypse as the ages of the Church, which has been seen in the past in Catholic scholarship.  Admittedly, I am suggesting a renewed form by correlating them to the dragon scenes of Apocalypse partitioned into seven ages. Well, I can honestly say that I overlooked several elements of the letters that I was not sure how to regard, but that now, as far as i can see, already contained potential deeper meaning that I was ignorant of.

Let me work through some of it. 

Fornication as Symbol of Protestant-type Heresy

Firstly, if, from above with the Woman at the Well, fornication is a symbol of Protestant or Protestant-like heresy, it is appropriate to see the same fornication as a symbol of heresy in the Apocalypse letters, where it occurs in letters three and four, which, by our standards, are the Middle Ages and then Protestantism and the general age of Solo-Ratio.  Letter four is already a perfect fit: its first big “half” is Protestantism. Fornication’s presence in letter three would then seem to suggest that the first wave of Protestant-like religion is occurring in the Middle Ages. Indeed, it did: Waldenses, Wycliffe, Hus.

Apocalypse 2:

But I have against thee a few things: because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat, and to commit fornication:

But I have against thee a few things: because thou sufferest the woman Jezabel, who calleth herself a prophetess, to teach, and to seduce my servants, to commit fornication, and to eat of things sacrificed to idols. [21] And I gave her a time that she might do penance, and she will not repent of her fornication[22] Behold, I will cast her into a bed: and they that commit adultery with her shall be in very great tribulation, except they do penance from their deeds.

Idol Worship as Heretical Services: No Valid Mass

Secondly, there is mention of idol worship in the letters, also only in letters three and four.  We should pause here to argue a very appropriate hyperbolic symbolism. We can argue that one way to regard Idol worship in these letters is any worship that is not sanctioned by God. In the NT, the only formal worship sanctioned by God is the Mass.  Heretics lose the Episcopate and so don't have priests; consequently, they don't have the Mass, and, hence, they don't have the form of worship intended by God. So Protestant worship, or heretical worship, cannot be the Mass and so is wrong.  Therefore, it can be hyperbolically and symbolically called “idol worship.“

Sacrificing Meat to Idols; the Heretics' Pseudo-Eucharist

Too, the apocalypse mentions sacrificing meat to idols or eating the essence of what is sacrificed, also only in letters three and four.  The true meat, or flesh, that God desires us to sacrifice in Worship is Jesus in the Eucharist, sacrificed to the Father. Non-Apostolic worship’s sacrifice is considered symbolic and IS merely symbolic: it is not the true flesh of God but like "meat to idols".

To sum up, fornication and idol worship appear only in letters three and four; proto-Protestant and Protestant activity, or the primary presence of heretical Christianity, are only present in Ages three and four: the Middle Ages and Protestantism. Therefore, it is lining up well.

Apocalypse 2:

But I have against thee a few things: because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat, and to commit fornication:

But I have against thee a few things: because thou sufferest the woman Jezabel, who calleth herself a prophetess, to teach, and to seduce my servants, to commit fornication, and to eat of things sacrificed to idols.[21] And I gave her a time that she might do penance, and she will not repent of her fornication. [22] Behold, I will cast her into a bed: and they that commit adultery with her shall be in very great tribulation, except they do penance from their deeds.

In conclusion, the metaphor of  human sexuality as Holy Orders and the spousal relationship between the validly ordained man and his community that he serves, and as, in fornication, a mere pseudo-spouse, as in heretical Christianity, is perfectly imaged in the Woman at the Well and perfectly placed in the Seven Letters when we view the Seven Letters in context of the seven primary dragon scenes, namely in this case, letters three and four, or ages three and four, the Middle Ages and Protestantism/solo-Ratio. Also, the symbolism of idol worship and eating things sacrificed thereto as Protestant worship is an apt symbolism for this ecclesiology and also, like above with fornication, is perfectly placed in the ages three and four, where the same heretical activity would possess the bad worship form.

In a subsequent article, we will pull these things together to revisit the Seven Letters, and also explore a final way to look at the Nicolaites, a mysterious evil in letters one and three.

Menu icon by Icons8